What Can We Learn from International Museums? Encouraging A Global Relationship Between Museums

Added to Medium, October 26, 2017

When I began my career as a museum educator, I learned about various local, regional, and national organizations that provide professional development and other resources for museums. As I continue my career in the museum field, I also learned more about international museum organizations that offer similar resources for museum professionals around the world. I understood that museums can benefit from meeting with other museum professionals to share ideas and learn from each other about various museum operations especially education programming. Museums and museum professionals have opportunities to gather and learn from one another to keep developments in the field moving forward.

During tonight’s #MuseumEdChat on Twitter, myself and other participants emphasized the importance of learning from other professionals in the field. One of the participants, on answering a question about mentorship, pointed out that “people with varying areas of expertise need to mentor you through different issues”. There are so many professionals with various areas of expertise we work with that it is important to collaborate and seek guidance.

Another participant also thought about “colleagues in museums in other countries who literally risk their lives to preserve culture.” Museum professionals in many countries are dedicated to preserving culture, and work together to provide resources to help one another.

If we continue to engage with museum professionals both within our country and outside of the country, we will not only have a better understanding of one another we will also be leading by example on dealing with current issues in the world.

I was first introduced to international organizations when I learned about MuseumNext.

Museum Next is an organization that began in 2009 with the question “what’s next for museums?” They discovered that the answer to this question is as varied as the people who are building it. This organization builds a global community of museum leaders, innovators and makers who champion future thinking in museums. MuseumNext has led to collaborations that span the globe, and the influence of this passionate community can be seen in action in museums all over the world. It offers conferences held throughout the year in Europe, North America and Australia to offer participants the opportunity to hear inspiring presentations, pick up career skills in expert hosted workshops and network with fellow delegates.

When I began writing my blog, I began to learn more about international museum organizations through LinkedIn and other social media outlets such as Museums Association and the International Council of Museums (ICOM).

Museums Association is a UK based organization that inspires museums to change lives. It is the oldest museums association in the world (set up in 1889) based in London, and is independently funded by memberships. Their memberships are made up of museum professionals, institutions and corporate members. Museums Association values a lot in making museums have impacts on lives. This organization values having the courage to say what they believe; passion about delivering diversity and equality; working collaboratively, inclusively, and ethically; and lead change by example. The Association advocates for museums, sets ethical standards and runs training and professional development for members wishing to further their careers.

Museums Association is governed by a board of trustees from all parts of the UK museum community, elected by MA members. It runs various professional development programs, including conferences, and mentoring and regular training events.

The International Council of Museums (ICOM) is an organization created in 1946 by and for museum professionals with more than 37,000 members and museum professionals who represent the global museum community. A diplomatic forum made up of experts from 141 countries and territories was formed to respond to the challenges museums face worldwide. ICOM carries out international missions thanks to international mandates in association with partners including UNESCO, INTERPOL and the World Customs Organization (WCO). Also, ICOM is committed to providing cultural institutions with the necessary support and risk prevention tools when faced with conflict situations or natural disasters.

ICOM also organized International Museum Day, a worldwide event held around May 18th which aims to increase public awareness of the role of museums in developing society since 1977. Participation in International Museum Day promotes greater diversity and intercultural dialogue among the international museum community, and each year ICOM identifies a theme for the event. I have spread awareness of this worldwide event for years since I discovered it early on in my career. This past year’s theme was “Museums and contested histories: Saying the unspeakable in museums” which focuses on the role of museums that, by working to benefit society, become hubs for promoting peaceful relationships between people.

In addition to previously mentioned, ICOM also operates thirty international committees on a range of museum specialties, who conduct advanced research in their respective fields for the benefit of the museum community. Some of the committees include CECA – Education & Cultural Action, DEMHIST – Historic House Museums, ICOM-CC – Conservation, and ICFA – Fine Arts.

There are so many international museum organizations out there that emphasize the importance of museums and what they offer.

On the social media outlets, I have had discussions with museum professionals from various countries including but not limited to Uganda and Nigeria; there have been sharing points of view as well as sharing advice during these conversations. By connecting with museum professionals outside the country, I learn more about the museum field on a larger scale and appreciate so much diversity our world has to offer; we could (and should) celebrate what all of us in the world have to offer.

Do you know of other international museum organizations? What has your experience like connecting/networking with international museum professionals?

Resources:
http://www.museumsassociation.org/home
https://www.museumnext.com/
http://icom.museum/

Anniversary Special: One Year of Writing about Museum Education

Added to Medium, October 19, 2017

As a way to celebrate both the one-year anniversary and my birthday tomorrow, I decided to reflect on the past year and share plans moving forward for the blog. It has been exactly a year today since I started my first blog entry on Medium, and so much has happened since then. When I began my blog, I talked about how I became the museum educator I am and what led me to start writing it. I stated in my blog,

This story will continue not only with a discussion about my experiences in greater detail but I also will discuss recent topics in the field as well as recent books and journal articles I read. I also will write about conferences and workshops I attended. What I hope to accomplish with this blog is to give educators and aspiring educators both a personal account of and resources on the museum education field.

Now a year later, I kept my promise and discussed recent topics in the field including museum professionals leaving the field and what to do to make the field more appealing to stay in. Also, I discussed what I have been reading and discussed topics based on what I read in books, journals, blog posts, and articles. I briefly discussed my professional development experience in the blog.

Since I started the blog a year ago, I have met with many people who have expressed their thoughts, opinions, and insights on the ideas I shared. I shared my blog posts each week on social media outlets LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter to reach out to people especially other museum professionals. Especially on LinkedIn, I read many comments, opinions, and insights to the topics I discussed. I am thankful for everyone who has read and responded to this blog since you all gave me insights on your perspectives on the museum field and continued the discussion on these topics. Also, I thank those who reached out to ask me questions and for my advice. When you respond to these blog posts, I am able to not only know what you thought about the current topic we are also able to learn from one another to keep moving our field forward. Because of this blog, I have also became even more involved in the field than before I started writing.

Ever since I began writing this blog there have been many developments including meeting new people, joining Gender Equity in Museums Movement (GEMM), and creating a new website to promote the blog in addition to sharing resources I come across.

After writing about gender equity in the Lunch with NEMA program, I was asked if I would be interested in joining Gender Equity in Museums Movement (GEMM) which is dedicated to educating museum professionals about gender equity and assisting museum professionals in discussing gender equity among colleagues. In addition to this, I created a website that is used as my professional reference and where I promote my blog.

When I created my website, https://lookingbackmovingforwardinmuseumeducation.com, I hoped to promote not only my blog but to also promote my expertise by sharing resources I refer to and open communication with viewers to discuss topics on museums. I designed my website so visitors can see an abbreviated version of my resume, and if they are interested in learning specific experiences there is a contact page where they can ask me to send them a copy of my resume. Also, my website has various resources organized into various topics including education and interpretation, educational resources, books on museums and public history, and blogs I read. These are resources I share that show I keep up to date on current topics and trends in the field. While I update my website, I also check on the number of individuals who have accessed my website.

I have seen people who have visited my website come from not only within the United States but from many countries around the world. There were individuals from Iceland, Israel, Ghana, South Africa, Australia, Canada, Japan, India, Spain, Germany, Ireland, China, Bangladesh, New Zealand, United Kingdom, Brazil, Peru, Russia, Switzerland, and Italy. When I saw the amount of people from different countries visiting my website, I saw the potential in continuing to make my website grow and reach out to more people.

I have learned a lot in this experience and I am thankful for each moment that led me to this point in my career.

Moving forward, I have additional ideas and projects I am continuing to work on. Since I realize there is international attention to this website as well, I will look out for resources that discuss international museum topics to add to my website.

While I have posted for the most part only once a week, I know that there is so much I want to write about so I want to write more than once on a regular basis. In order to do so, I want to make sure this blog and website can be financially supported to keep it running. I will launch my Patreon page to help support my website and blog.

Patreon, for those not familiar with the website, is a membership platform that provides business tools for creators to run a subscription content service, as well as ways for artists to build relationships and provide exclusive experiences to their subscribers, or patrons. It is popular among YouTube video makers, artists, writers, podcasters, musicians, and other creators who post regularly online.

On my Patreon page I encourage all to make a contribution to help support the blog and website, and/or share my page with others. There are a number of rewards you can earn when you contribute which are: acknowledgement on my website, send information you come across to me on museums and history, and make requests for what I should write about for the blog. When you make higher contributions, in addition to the previously mentioned rewards we can arrange for an hour meeting, a two-hour meeting, or an unlimited meeting for either a meet and greet or seek consulting advice.

My goals are when I reach 50 patrons contributing I will post two blog entries per week instead of once per week. As more patrons contribute to my blog and website, I will increase the number of blog entries per week.

I encourage visiting and sharing my Patreon page, listed here: https://www.patreon.com/lindseysteward

Thank you all for your continued support during the past year, and I hope you all continue to read as I continue to give educators and aspiring educators both a personal account of and resources on the museum education field.

Museum Education’s Canon: A Focus on Museum Education in Historic House Museums and Science Museums

Added to Medium, October 5, 2017

The September edition of Museum Education Roundtable’s Journal of Museum Education attempts to answer the question it presents throughout the Journal : “Does Museum Education Have A Canon?”

To answer this question, one has to keep in mind that it is not easy to come up with the definitive definition of museum education cannon. There are many different types of museums that exist in the field, and various things that they focus education programming on. All museums have this in common: museum education departments have the challenge of figuring out the right balance of taking into consideration visitor wants and their highlighted objects and/or exhibits when planning their programs.

Journal of Museum Education “Does Museum Education Have A Canon?” has a number of articles discussing the main topic. For instance, Hannah Landsmann’s “Who’s Speaking?” describes the development and implementation of a program at the Jewish Museum in Vienna called “Enfach so? So Enfach” or “It’s that easy? Yes!” students are asked to photograph works that interest them, either because they like the works or because they do not; the program allows students to be the arbiters of what is a central and important object for discussion, shifting the valuation of objects to the visitor-oriented action.

Merete Sanderhoff’s “The Canon, the Web, and the Long Tail” discussed about releasing images of artworks into the public domain that creates a new possibility for the public to challenge the canon or create their own based on access to previously inaccessible images. This means that what people find both interesting and useful is defined not through art educators nor curators but through their own engagement with the works.

Carolyn Halpin-Healy’s “Well-Chosen Objects Support Well-Being for People with Dementia and Their Care Partners” discussed a series of programs called the Arts & Minds programs which aim to promote the well-being for people with dementia and their care partners. Ultimately, the choice of artworks for both contemplation and dialogue is contingent on intersecting criteria that also take into account symptoms of dementia, accessibility, participant interests and the inherent qualities of the art.

As seen in the previous examples the main focus of this edition was on art history canon, but the guest editors did point out that the questions posted in the Journal extend to other museums as well as art museums.

My experience in the museum education field provides some examples that answer the Journal’s question. I have some experience in the art history field but my main experiences have been in historic house museums and a children’s science museum.

An example of working with art history in addition to 19th century history is my work at the Long Island Museum. Like what was discussed in Halpin-Healy’s article, the Long Island Museum has a program that focuses on engaging individuals with dementia, Alzheimer’s, and other mental capacities called In the Moment program. Each program encourages discussion which inspire participants to remember their past memories. The programs are adjusted based on the what is on exhibit and what the groups are interested in. For instance, a group may be interested in visiting the museum’s Carriage Museum to learn about the parts of the carriage by feeling the parts and discussing what they see, and they use the things that inspire them to discuss about their own personal past.

While I was at historic house museums in Connecticut, each of the historic house museums find the balance between the focus on objects and appealing to visitors. There are many historic house museums in this country, and each one has to figure out how to adapt to visitors needs using the objects in its collections. For instance, Stanley-Whitman House in Farmington, the Butler-McCook House in Hartford, and Noah Webster House in West Harford have unique narratives that tell a piece of Connecticut history.

Each location has objects displayed in their rooms that illustrate what life is like in the past. The discussions in group tours and school programs encourage visitors to not only engage with but to also make connections with the exhibits and activities that will make the experience personal. A lot of ways that are used in history house museums, especially the ones I worked in, used period costumes to help visitors step back in time to understand history on a more personal level.

Stanley-Whitman House, a living history center and museum that teaches through the collection, preservation, research, and dynamic interpretation of the history and culture of early Farmington, programs focuses on colonial history using objects in the rooms. Each museum teacher wears period costumes while using items such as cookware to describe what individuals in the 18th century ate especially in Farmington.

Butler-McCook House is the only 18th century house standing on Main Street in Hartford, and is a time capsule that preserves Hartford’s history and the family’s history. While the house primarily focuses on the McCook family during the late 19th century and their artistic and intellectual interests, the school programs are adapted to the needs of the visiting groups. Public group tours and school groups that walk through the house are encourage to discuss their personal experiences of hanging out at home and they learn more about the McCook family lifestyle at home which would create personal connections to the history presented in the home. Visitors understand the similarities and differences of what home life is like between themselves and the McCook family.

Noah Webster House engages citizens by preserving and sharing history, promoting literacy and advocating greater cultural understanding. School programs focus on both 18th century American history and the history of Noah Webster who created the first American dictionary by using objects to immerse themselves in what life was like in 18th century West Hartford (or West Division as it was called then).

Science museums also have to address museum education canon in their programming. At the children’s science museum I work in, Maritime Explorium, we encourage students and visitors of all ages to participate in hands-on activities and projects. that promote STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics) learning. Each week has a different main focus that encourages children to experiment, have fun, and learn the connections of these activities to the understanding of STEAM. For instance, one of the focuses was the science of harvest that focused on apples.

In this focus, apples are used to create star prints on paper using paints. Also, kids experiment with the browning process of apples. Kids use different liquids such as lemon and lime juice to see how well they can prevent apple slices from turning brown, and therefore make the apples last longer. By using apples, kids not only have fun with apples but also understand how the preservation process can be used to make fruits last longer.

Based on my experiences, I would say that museum education does have a canon. Museum education canon focuses on making educational experiences not only engaging for visitors of all ages but make a lasting impression that encourages return visits.

How would you answer this question: does museum education have a canon? What examples have you seen in museums that prove museum education does (or does not) have a canon?

Museum and School Partnerships: Why They Are Important for Education

Added to Medium, September 21, 2017

To provide educational opportunities for students of all grade levels and abilities, museums and schools can benefit from forming a partnership with each other. As museum professionals know well, museums provide various resources for individuals of all ages. This is true for P-12 students who attend public, private, and home schools.

When museums and schools form a partnership, they will be able to help each other fulfil their goals and needs in education. Schools can benefit from this partnership since museums provide examples of how schools can broaden their approach beyond the narrow focus on academic work.

According to Evie Blad in her article “Scientists to Schools: Social, Emotional Development Crucial for Learning”, the social, emotional, and academic development are significant and central to students’ learning. Students must develop various skills that will be useful for the world outside of the classroom. For instance, the skills students need to be successful in the classroom and in life can be grouped into three areas: cognitive skills (beliefs and attitudes that guide one’s sense of self and approaches to learning and growth), emotional competencies (enables them to manage emotions and understand others’ emotions and perspectives), and social and interpersonal skills (enable them to read social cues, navigate social situations, resolve interpersonal conflicts, and to demonstrate compassion and empathy toward others).

Museum programming not only allow students to participate in activities that assist in understanding of academic materials in the classroom but the programming offer ways for students to develop the skills necessary to effectively integrate social, emotional, and academic development. In the museum programs, especially in historic house museums and museums I have worked and currently work for, they encourage students to understand their own capabilities and develop those skills to improve their knowledge.

Also, museum programs can show students opportunities to make emotional connections to narratives presented in exhibits. In historic house museums, for instance, museum educators share relatable stories of the people who lived in these houses through programming they will be able to identify with them. Museums can also educate students on making emotional connections through the programs that help them serve the community.

Maritime Explorium, for instance, has a program that not only teaches students how to build catapults to launch items (to measure distance) educators encourage their students to bring home their catapults as well as clay balls with native plant seeds inside to launch them into the dirt. By launching the seeds, they will help keep their environments healthier.

Educational programs in museums also encourage students participate in activities that encourage them to use and develop social as well as interpersonal skills. Students are encouraged to gather into groups to use teamwork to accomplish activities in the programs. Museums and schools can benefit from a partnership by creating opportunities for students to be inspired.

Students have opportunities to develop a lasting interest in museums. It is especially important to encourage young students to appreciate what museums have to offer. Anne Forgerson Hindley’s contribution to Alliance Labs, “Why Museums Should Care About Young Children”, went into details about why museums are focusing more on attracting early learners to these institutions. For instance, museums allow children to explore their interests through outlets including authentic objects, hands-on exhibits, and activities.

When the students explore their interests, they are able to express their creativity and their generous willingness to share their ideas. Museums offer programs that create these opportunities to express their creativity. As educators encourage their students to visit more museums, museums subsequently have an increase in serving their communities better and create more robust experiences for visitors of all ages.

The more times students visit museums for their programming, the more they are likely to develop their education that will make them more informed as well as well-rounded individuals making their communities better for the future.

For parents, guardians, and chaperones, how have your children’s experiences in museums made an impact on them as individuals? What examples can you share about museum-school partnerships that worked in your institutions? Please share your thoughts on museum-school partnerships.

Referred to in the Blog:
http://labs.aam-us.org/blog/why-museums-should-care-about-young-children/
http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/rulesforengagement/2017/09/scientists_to_schools_social_emotional_development_crucial_for_learning.html

How Education Supplies Are Significant in Museum Programming

Added to Medium, September 14, 2017.

Supplies for programming in museums are endless and are selected based on the needs of each program. There are various ideas for museums to create school and public programs from, and they are based on each institution’s missions and educational goals. Since there are different ways educators can plan their school and public programs within their missions, we have to plan what supplies and how much supplies are needed as they plan the programs.

For instance, if a historic house museum focuses not only on its history and the family that lived there but also focus on serving the community, programs are planned to support the study of history and connect with members in the community to be relevant in its community.

School program supplies include but are not limited to paper, pencils, markers, crayons, paint, scissors, color pencils, and ink. Public program supplies include but are not limited to supplies used in school programs (depending on what program is planned for what audience), food, drinks, cups, and plates. The previous examples are supplies I have personally used, and have been in charge of the supply inventory in my career as a museum educator.

Depending on what an education department needs, many stores provide the typical supplies needed. If the programs require specific items not found in stores, there are places that museums partner with to provide materials needed. At the Long Island Museum, for instance, they had school and other children’s programming that allow them to pretend to turn over hay outside the barn on the Museum’s campus; the education staff travel to a farm stand that sells hay, and makes a purchase that should last throughout the school year.

An important issue in education programming museums have to address each year is funding for these programs. It is also an issue that educators faces in the school system.

I came across an article from Education Week called “Teachers Spend Hundreds of Dollars a Year on School Supplies. That’s a Problem.” Written by Ann Ness (executive director of the Minneapolis-based nonprofit AdoptAClassroom.org), the article discussed how teachers have spent a lot of their own money to provide the supplies needed for their classrooms. According to Ness’ article, a survey of more than 1,800 public and private school teachers conducted in the 2015-16 school year stated that the average American educator spends $600 of their own money every year on basic supplies and they not only cover typical staples such as copier paper or colored pencils, but also go toward clothing and personal hygiene necessities for students who need them. Ness argued that educators need to have a better way to be able to have plenty of supplies for their students, and the students and parents need to urge their local school districts and state legislatures to adequately fund education that is able to provide supplies for students in need.

This article made me think about how this fact also applies to museum educators who need to purchase items for their programs. For each year, education departments in each museum have to figure out funding for education supplies.

Like educators in public and private schools, many museum educators use the money out of their own pockets to support the programs. At Connecticut Landmarks, for instance, one of my former co-workers would purchase food such as cookies and vegetables for the Cultural Cocktail Hour program that promotes local artists’ works. It is also possible for museum educators could be reimbursed for their purchases especially when there is room in the budget to reimburse them.

Whenever a museum educator purchases items for the program or programs, a receipt is saved so the director of the education department or executive director would sign off on the purchase and provide a check to give to the museum educator. To provide the funds to reimburse the education staff, the education budget includes an amount that has to be spent on supplies and should be enough to provide a part in the budget to give money to educators that purchase items for the museum.

The majority of the funds that support museum programming, and on a larger scale to keep museums running, come from grants that museums have to apply for each year. In each grant application, museums have to address what they hope to accomplish when they receive the funds. When they applied for grants they have previously received funds from, museums must address how much they have accomplished with the grant in the previous year(s) and how the grant would be essential for the upcoming year. This is an understanding that was reaffirmed while I was assisting the executive director at the Maritime Explorium on part of a grant application to keep the museum running programs for visiting children.

To be able to successfully run programs that make an impact on our audiences, we need to be able to get access to supplies.
What supplies do your institutions use for your programming? Are there other ways your organization or institution find funding for programs?

Here is the link to the article I referenced in this post:
http://www.edweek.org/tm/articles/2017/08/02/teachers-spend-hundreds-of-dollars-a-year.html?cmp=eml-enl-eu-news2

Why We Need to Be Prepared: Resources on Preparation for Natural Disasters for Museums

Added on Medium, September 7, 2017.

In the past couple of weeks, we were either preparing for and assisting others in preparing as well as helping people in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey (August 25, 2017-September 2, 2017) and now Hurricane Irma. Since these natural disasters occurred, the museum community continues to support those museums that had been through these hurricanes by sharing resources on how museums can prepare for these storms like Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma in addition to offering whatever we could to help those museums and the communities surrounding them. I was one of the museum professionals who shared resources on how to prepare for natural disasters; in my last blog, I stated that I have gathered resources and posted them on my website for those who want to learn more.

As a community of museums, we need to recognize that we should be able to be prepared for whatever storm or natural disaster that comes into our area. Many of the items in our collections are irreplaceable, and without the protection we need (insurance and preservation procedures) we could lose a part of our past that we may never be able to recover.

We have various organizations and resources that offer ways to help protect and preserve items on the national and state levels. The Documentary Heritage and Preservation Services for New York, for instance, is a collaboration between two long-running New York programs dedicated to service and support for archival and library research collections throughout the state, and is supported by the New York State Archives, New York State Library, Conservation Center for Art & Historic Artifacts, and the New York State Education Department.

The Documentary Heritage and Preservation Services for New York offers various resources to assist museums and other organizations on preserving items in their collections. Back in June, I participated in a workshop called Disaster Response and Recovery: A Hands-On Intensive.

This workshop was an all-day program that allows participants to not only listen to advice from the experts affiliated with the Documentary Heritage and Preservation Services for New York but it also provided an opportunity to practice what we have learned through hands-on salvage activities. Participants were also given folders with additional information that can be referred to later on after the program has been completed. Inside the folders, there were pieces of information about the Documentary Heritage and Preservation Services for New York including what the organization is and the programs it offers especially educational workshops.

The folders also included additional information on disaster response and recovery. One of the pieces of information include guidelines for boxing wet books for freezing, and freezing and drying of book, paper, and photographic materials information and guidelines packet. Inside the folders, there were also additional information to supplement the presentation including information about the Incident Command System (the team that is gathered to respond and recover items after a disaster), and what we would need to recover specific type of items such as books, paper, CDs/DVDs, parchment/manuscripts, microfilms, black and white photographic prints, and textiles.

We were also given copies of the PowerPoint presentation to both refer to after the workshop and to take down additional notes on information they mentioned that were not brought up on the slides.

Also, it provided an agenda for the day’s workshop and information about the workshop speakers as well as a directory of museum professionals who attended the workshop.

In the morning, after a brief introduction, we were introduced to a few topics. The experts discussed the Incident Command System, Personal Safety, Site Assessment Techniques, Knowing When to Contact a Vendor, and Basic Salvage Techniques.

One of the first things the speakers pointed out that need to be done is to make human health and safety a priority. It is important to check in on the staff’s emotional and physical state since we should care about the individuals we work with to fulfil our organizations’ missions. Afterwards, the staff has to gather personal protective equipment (PPE) such as aprons, boots, gloves, goggles, and hard hats before approaching the situation.

The next steps in the recovery process are to assess the situation, prevent further damage, have a collections salvage, and return to as normal practice as possible. Each staff member should be assigned to different roles to record the damage, retrieve the items, and recover the items using appropriate techniques to best preserve the various types of items in the collections.

After a short break, we continued learning more about disaster response and recovery. We started to learn about the functional activity we would be participating in, and each part of the activity has a number of steps. For instance, we have to assess the site, assign roles, gather the supplies, and then set up the triage areas.

Once we assigned the roles to our team members, we proceeded to perform the salvage of items provided by the experts using the techniques we learned. After a lunch break, we continued the salvage but switched roles so each team member was able to practice what they have not done before the break.

In addition to this workshop, I also plan on gaining more resources from a webinar I found, hosted by the Texas Historical Organization, called Webinar: Responding to Hurricane Harvey. During this webinar, Rebecca Elder of the National Heritage Responders and Lori Foley of the Heritage Emergency National Task Force will host a discussion about emergency response. The discussion also includes opportunities to ask questions on emergency response, salvage, and recovery.

I recommend signing up for this webinar if your institution was affected by Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma. I also recommend signing up if you are curious about what resources are available for emergency responses.

During these times, we need to be there for each other and help support each other however we can. I decided to write about hurricanes and natural disaster recovery processes as a way to offer help to those who need resources on how to preserve their collections. My thoughts are with those still recovering from the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey and those who are in the middle of Hurricane Irma.

What resources have you came across for natural disaster recovery processes? How does (do) your organization(s) prepare for and recover from natural disasters?
Here are some resources I referred to in my blog and a link to resources I gathered on my website on natural disasters:
Documentary Heritage and Preservation Services for New York: http://dhpsny.org/
https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/1686939294244406785 (webinar I referred to in the blog)
Northeast Document Conservation Center: https://www.nedcc.org/
and the NEDCC article: https://www.nedcc.org/free-resources/preservation-leaflets/3.-emergency-management/3.8-emergency-salvage-of-moldy-books-and-paper
Virginia Association of Museums: http://www.vamuseums.org/page/DisasterResources
My website and the resource pages I gathered for visitors: https://lookingbackmovingforwardinmuseumeducation.wordpress.com/resources/articles-I-am-reading/

 

How to Make Educational Programs Accessible?

Added to Medium, August 31, 2017

Museums prepare school programs for the upcoming year, and we figure out how to make these programs accessible for all students of various capabilities. There are different ways museums have developed programs that are accessible for all learners. For instance, museum programs are developed to be easily adapted to all ages and capabilities. Another way is specific programs can be developed to be geared towards specific capabilities. Many museums have a combination of programs geared to be easily adapted and towards specific capabilities.

 

It is important to be able to have different types of programs that can be adapted to all individuals with various capabilities as well as those geared towards different capabilities because each individual learns in different capacities and there should not be limitations to what they can participate in. Also, not many museums have the resources to create costly programs geared to people who need to learn in different ways including, not limited to, those with visual impairments, hearing impairments, and memory loss.

 

I learned additional information about accessible programming at this past year’s New York City Museum Educators Roundtable (NYCMER) conference. The theme of the conference was “Inclusivity: From Within & Beyond”, and it was located at the School of Visual Arts.
When I was at this past year’s NYCMER meeting, I attended a session that discussed various accessibility programs. This session was called “Resource Workshop: Designing Accessible Materials”, and it was presented by Miranda Appelbaum (from the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts), Lara Schweller (from The Museum of Modern Art), Beth Ann Balalaos (from the Long Island Children’s Museum), Ellysheva Zeira (from the Lower East Side Tenement Museum), Charlotte Martin (from the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum), Emmanuel von Schack (from the National September 11 Memorial & Museum), and Roberto Chavez (from the New York Transit Museum). It was a workshop in which I participated in various micro-workshops where I learned more about designing social narratives and visual schedules, tactile objects, training resources, and digital resources.

 

During the Resource workshop, the presenters handed out various documents to assist participants in learning about how to create our own programs. For instance, one of the handouts we received was called “Creating Resources for People who are Blind or have Low Vision”. On the handout, it gave advice on verbal descriptions including having a plan in which the programs provide a verbal description interwoven with a story; use specific words in the description including composition, color, texture, pattern, and relative size; and be able to choose a few important features and consider the best way to order the information to not overwhelm the audience.
The handout also shared the best practices for objects. According to the handout, the best practices for objects are show and tell, give clear instructions, connect to the object’s physicality by asking the visitors feel an object’s weight and texture for instance, set a time limit with the kids, and be selective. There was also a DIY Object Ideas section in the handout that provides ideas to assist in teaching these programs.

 

These ideas include the use easy to find craft/household supplies including puffy/fabric paint, plastic lace, and restaurant squeeze bottles, jars and mesh (for smells). Another idea on the handout was to check out the Lighthouse Guild Shop where it has items such as bump/locator dots which can be used for all sorts of things and ‘High Mark’ tactile pens. One of the most important advices the presenters and handout provided was to not be afraid to try new things since one can always ask for feedback from participants with new methods and materials.

 

In addition to programming, it is also important to be able to provide resources easily accessible for all visitors. One of the ways to provide resources easily is an accessible website that make accessibility information easy to find on your institution’s homepage; it is also important to include a statement about your institution’s accessibility commitment, highlight the resources your institution provides, and to keep your website up-to-date with accessibility web standards.

 

Also, it is important to have visible signage about accessibility features visible to the public. In addition to visible signage, it is especially important to train staff to share information about accessibility features and to train staff with disability equality awareness in mind.
There should also be universal options provided for visitors when they come to the museums or institutions. In other words, it is important to integrate accessibility into every museum resource, to make accessibility options available to all users when possible, and to create kits and content for exploring exhibitions and object information in different ways. It is also important to opt for a Universal Design for every individual to be able to use to comprehend the material museums offer.

 

There are ways to have cost effective programs for accessible programming.

 

At the Long Island Museum, for instance, there is an In the Moment program that uses limited resources to educate individuals with Alzheimer’s, dementia, and memory loss on the museum’s collections as well as help them with their memories. Each booked program is changed depending on which exhibit a group is interested in seeing. For instance one program would be interested in viewing an exhibit in the Carriage Museum building while another group would be interested in seeing the latest exhibit in the Art Museum building.

 

When the program is booked for inside the Carriage museum, various props representing the parts of a carriage from the collections are shared with participants. By allowing the participants to feel the props they will be able to begin to understand the significance of these items. For instance, they understand how heavy the materials made for the carriage and why these materials have to be the best quality.
In the Art Museum, some participants viewed the Long Island in the Sixties exhibit. Songs from the 1960s were selected and downloaded based on the different parts of the exhibit. They were also able to sit and look at pre-selected displays to view and discuss about. During both experiences, participants were able to bring pictures home of what they saw at the museum to share with loved ones and inspire continued discussion about what they saw during their visits.

 

Both types of In the Moment programs encourage participants to discuss what they see and remember from the past. When asked questions, participants share sometimes personal memories and observations. The purpose of these activities is to inspire them to talk and interact with their surroundings.
As we continue to keep up to date on accessibility standards, we should also be able to appeal to a wider audience through programming accessible for all types of learners.

 

What kinds of accessible programs have you learned about? Are there any methods that your institutions have practiced? What worked and/or what were the lessons learned from those experiences?
Announcement: On my website, I have included more resources especially about how to prepare for natural disasters and museums reactions to Hurricane Harvey. Take a look at https://lookingbackmovingforwardinmuseumeducation.wordpress.com/resources/articles-I-am-reading/

What Can We Learn From the DreamSpace Project?

Added to Medium, August 24, 2017

I was reading the Alliance Labs blog posts when I came across one that I found not only interesting but also relevant for museum professionals and other readers alike. It is an example of a blog post that provides information about how to have a better understanding of race and racism. American Alliance of Museum’s Ford W. Bell Fellow in P-12 Education and Museums Sage Morgan-Hubbard has transcribed an interview she had with Alyssa Machida, an Interpretive Specialist at the Detroit Institute of Arts, about the workbook, The DreamSpace Project in the Alliance Labs blog post “Building the Dreamspace in Museum Education”.

What is a Dreamspace? A Dreamspace is a place in the museum where museum educators are able to learn how to provide a safe space for discussion about race and racism.

We need to take the time to acknowledge what is going on in our nation and look deep down into ourselves and in our communities. The Dreamspace project is one of the ways we can do so in the museum field.

According to the blog post on incluseum website called “The Dreamspace Project: A workbook and toolkit for critical praxis in the American art museum Part I”, there is a growing need for tools and resources to guide museum educators in developing more nuanced understandings of race and racism throughout their institutions; in order to do so, Alyssa Machida researched concepts from critical pedagogy, critical race theory, and ethnic studies to integrate with museum education pedagogy.

Machida, as of last year, was working on the Dreamspace workbook which translates theoretical concepts into practical language and frameworks adaptable for art museum professionals with key vocabulary, diagrams and graphic organizers, ideas for building tours, and questions for critical reflection.

The purpose of this workbook is to take educators through a significant amount of content for the purpose of raising critical consciousness. Educators, especially in this day and age, engage us in wide-reaching social forces and dynamics beyond our peripheral vision, and as a result teach us how to become better human beings in the process.

Machida also discussed in the blog post “The Dreamspace Project: A workbook and toolkit for critical praxis in the American art museum Part 2” contextualizing, deconstruction, and decolonization. She explained that in the chapter of the Dreamspace workbook “Contextualizing: Mapping and Navigating Terrains” it introduces the practice of developing critical self-awareness, building knowledge of the many ecologies we inhabit, and expanding understandings of our roles and responsibilities. There are also key points that museums have to keep in mind when establishing critical self-awareness and openness to being challenged within ourselves to see individuals as agents of change.

The key points in mindfulness to keep in mind provide a framework for openness. In the blog post, she stated the first key point is everyone is complicit with racism; in other words, it is everyone’s responsibility to be attuned and counteract deeply ingrained behaviors and biases which will take time. The second key point is don’t let emotion get in the way of critically and consciousness; while learning about racism and systems of oppression is an emotional and painful, it is important to not let emotions take control since we are learning something that is changing our perspectives, and make sure we breathe, stay calm, and keep going. Then the third key point is to bring it up; these conversations are difficult to bring up to colleagues and supervisors but if you have trust and respect speak up since it is an opportunity for learning, teaching, and growth. The fourth key point is listen with your skin; in other words, when the subject of racism is brought up, be ready to put all biases and assumptions aside as well as listen for understanding. In addition, it is important to be open to being challenged and look for multiple ways to be supportive.

Machida’s work has gained a lot of attention in the past few days especially after what had happened in Charlottesville this month. These blog posts about her work were included as resources to look over while reading the Alliance Labs piece by Sage Morgan-Hubbard.

In the interview, Morgan-Hubbard used some of the questions in the Dreamspace toolkit. Some of the questions include: What was one of your first experiences with a museum? What does education mean to you? What is your personal learning style? Do you teach in a way that leans towards your personal learning style? and How do you see your role in society, or in your community?

By learning about Machida’s background in museum education and her work on the Dreamspace project, I am able to think about my own background and know that there are many museum educators that can identify with her answers.

When we understand more about individuals of all backgrounds within our own communities we would be able to provide a safe space for both museum professionals and visitors.

Here are the links to the blogs I referred to:
http://labs.aam-us.org/blog/building-dreamspace-in-museum-education/
https://incluseum.com/2016/08/11/a-workbook-and-toolkit-for-critical-praxis-in-the-american-art-museum/
https://incluseum.com/2016/10/13/the-dreamspace-project-a-workbook-and-toolkit-for-critical-praxis-in-the-american-art-museum-part-2/
Have you read the Dreamspace workbook? What do you think of the Dreamspace workbook and toolkit?

What I Love the Most About Being a Museum Educator

Also posted on Medium, August 10, 2017.

As the school year approaches, I reflect on my experiences as a museum educator from previous museums in addition to the museum I am working with now. My career in museum education so far has been a rewarding field not only because I am surrounded my interesting material but I have the opportunity to translate that knowledge to audiences of wide age ranges. I have been recently asked by one of the parents I was talking with at the Maritime Explorium the following question: What do you love the most about being a museum educator?

When I told her my answer, I kept thinking about my experiences so far as a museum educator and thought I would share some of them here.

All of my experiences have included everything I love about being a museum educator including:
1. Interacting with kids: I love hearing from them about what they learned as well as what they can teach me. When I talk with them, I can see in their expressions how much they enjoy what they are hearing and doing. Also, I love that I have the opportunity to reach out to various age groups rather than only one age group.

2. Bringing their lessons to life: I enjoy being able to show them how the lessons they learned in the classroom can be applied outside the classroom. One of my favorite ways is being able to dress in costume to portray an individual from a time period to show how this person lived back then.

And

3. Leaving an impression: I also feel that if I hear kids say “I want to come back here again” or “I don’t wanna go” I know that I have done a great job showing them how fun and informative visiting the museums can be.

To explain the examples of what I love about being a museum educator, I would start with my most recent experiences then share some details from my previous experiences.

At the Maritime Explorium, I assisted in teaching a couple of library workshops at the local library for young kids and for third grade students. Young kids learned about archeology by digging through small sandboxes finding treasure. The second workshop was learning about how bridges are built and how they are supported. I love seeing the look on the kids’ faces when they learned something new and when they are enjoying the time they spent on these projects.

I also teach different activities during Maritime Explorium’s public hours. One of the summer activities I taught was making balloons into various items and making balloon rockets. While I was teaching these activities, I also was showing one girl how to work on other projects including how to turn a light bulb on only using a battery. After teaching her the activities and projects through the constructivist approach, she decided to go back to the balloon station to make stress balls using balloons and rice from the rice boats. To thank me, she gave one of them to me as a thank you for helping her. This was one of my top moments that made me love what I do as a museum educator.

I look back on each of my experiences, and I think about how many students I have had a similar impact I have had at Maritime Explorium.

My love for being a museum educator began during my summer internship at Connecticut’s Old State House in Hartford. I had the internship while I was at graduate school in Central Connecticut State University. I was able to get an internship at the Old State House after I interviewed Rebecca Tabor-Conover, Public Programs Coordinator, for my Introduction to Public History course.

On my first day of my internship, I assisted with a group of 140 elementary school students from kindergarten to second grade. One of the activities I worked with the students on was the I Spy program. In I Spy, the kids created and designed their own spy glass using paper towel tubes and designed them using whatever materials they could use such as markers, color construction paper, and stickers. Once they were completed, the kids walked around the Old State House and used their spy glasses to “spy” what they see in the museum.

I enjoyed seeing the look on their faces when they saw so many things they have never seen before and not expected to see in the museum. For instance, there was a recreated Museum of Curiosities inside one of the rooms on the second floor of the Old State House that featured a two-headed calf. Then they also pointed out various things they noticed including the tall original Lady Justice statue which used to sit on top of the Old State House.

While I was in graduate school, I became a museum teacher at the Stanley-Whitman House. I taught school programs between kindergarten and fifth grade, and these programs taught them about 18th century American history as well as Farmington history. What I enjoyed the most was seeing the students’ faces, especially the kindergarten students, when they arrive at the museum as well as while they explored the house with me. As a museum teacher, I dressed in costume to portray an 18th century woman that will explain through object-based and inquiry-based methods.

I also joined Connecticut Landmarks’ Hartford properties, Butler-McCook House and Isham-Terry House, to provide public tours and teach public programming. One of my favorite memories of working with kids was during First Night Hartford programs. The most recent one I had worked on included a craft activity in which kids made samurai helmets using gift wrapping paper and string to wear during the New Year’s Eve parade in downtown Hartford. I also enjoyed seeing the look on their faces when they saw the real samurai helmets that are in the Butler-McCook House’s collections; they thought it was so cool to see those helmets, and it is one of the unique features of the Butler-McCook House.

After I graduated from graduate school, I joined the Noah Webster House as a museum educator teaching students about West Hartford history, Noah Webster, and 18th century American history. Like while I was at the Stanley-Whitman House, I also dressed in costume to bring history to life. Depending on the program, I either simply dressed in costume and taught students through object based as well as inquiry-based methods, or I portrayed a woman who lived in West Hartford (or West Division as it was known back then) during the 18th century named Deborah Moore Kellogg who took control of her property after her husband died in a farming accident. When the program called for students to pretend to be individuals from 18th century West Division, I portrayed Deborah Moore Kellogg while we worked on chores such as cooking recipes in the kitchen and carding wool. I demonstrated cooking over a hearth, and the students love not only preparing the recipes but they also love watching me put the pots and pans over the fire to cook the recipes.

Once I moved on to the Long Island Museum, I occasionally dressed in costume to demonstrate life on 19th century Long Island. I wore a costume to dress as a schoolmarm, a teacher who taught lessons including reading, writing, and arithmetic in one-room schoolhouses. Every time I demonstrated lessons for the students, they were very excited about not only for writing the lessons on slate boards (small chalk boards) but also for 19th century games children back then played.

As I continue my career in museum education, I hope to continue inspiring students to not only learn about the materials the museums have but also to return to the museum to continue to play and learn. I leave these questions for you all to ponder:

What do you enjoy the most about your career? Do you have favorite stories from your museums/organizations?

 

How Museum Can Gain Visitors’ Attention through Educational Programming: Homeschool and Other Non-Traditional Programming

Added to Medium, August 3, 2017

Museum educators prepare for the upcoming school year by not only preparing for school programs but also non-traditional education programs such as homeschool days and scout programs. As museum professionals, we recognize there are various groups interested in educational programming museums have to offer. Museums, however, need to continue to expand its offerings and spread the word to those groups to remain relevant for all visitors.
I have had some experience in education programs for non-traditional groups. It is without a doubt a different experience from school programs. At the same time, what all of these programs have in common were the ability to educate and engage students with the materials offered by museums.

Homeschool programming in museums vary depending on what museums offer to their visitors. For instance, my first experience educating homeschool groups was at Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society. There was one homeschool group that came to Noah Webster House, and the students participated in an educational program that was adjusted to accommodate the small homeschool group in one of the pre-existing school programs.

I later experienced working with homeschool students in Long Island Museum’s Homeschool Day program. In May of 2016, there was a Homeschool Day planned in collaboration with the Smithtown Historical Society. Individuals participating in the program were able to visit both places in the same day or choose which place to visit for Homeschool Day. The families signed up with either organization, and they made the decision on whether to visit both places or one of the places. At the Long Island Museum, homeschool students and their families participated in a couple of interactive activities in addition to touring the Museum’s campus. They learned about parts of a 19th century stagecoach, experienced what it was like to attend school in a one-room schoolhouse during the 19th century, and visited the Samuel West’s blacksmith shop. Meanwhile at the Smithtown Historical Society, those who visited the place visited the historic structures and learned how to write with scratch pens (later version of the quill pen).

Many museums created programs that appeal to homeschool students and the majority of these programs helped homeschool students as well as their teachers network with each other. During my research on homeschool programming, I discovered a number of museums that have different programs that welcomed homeschool students and families to their museums. For instance, the New York Historical Society developed the Homeschool Academy which is designed to supplement their curriculum with engaging lessons in their classrooms, studios, and galleries. Also, the Museum of Play had programs geared towards homeschool students.

The Museum of Play in Rochester, New York offer various opportunities and programs for homeschool students to engage with the interactive exhibit spaces. While homeschool students and their families can participate in the Museum’s homeschool activities and lessons aligned with state and national standards, they also have the option to register for school group lessons that can be adapted for homeschool students’ needs.

There are other places that participate in their own versions of Homeschool Day. For instance, the Intrepid Museum of Sea, Air, and Space has Homeschool Days that feature talks and discussions geared towards appropriate age ranges and abilities. Also, there are activities that include an educator-led tour of the Museum as well as a chance to explore various topics through our historic artifacts, photographs and demonstrations. Homeschool students and their families also have time to travel the museum on their own, and can participate in a self-guided scavenger hunt. In addition to the Homeschool Days, homeschool groups of 10 or more students are also invited to take part in the Museum’s K–12 school programs.

Cradle of Aviation in Garden City, New York also has Homeschool Days that include activities such as guided tours and scavenger hunts. Also, when they bring 25 or more students, homeschool families can explore the Museum’s galleries, see a Giant Screen film, and Planetarium Show in addition to attending museum classes. They are welcome to register for any of the museum classes; and the educator-led programs include active discussion, fun visuals, hands-on demonstrations and other related activities.

I also did some research on homeschool programs in Connecticut museums since the beginning of my career in museum education began in this state. One of the examples I found was the Children’s Museum in West Hartford where it has a program known as the Homeschool Series. The Series offers various days in February, March, April, and May which they are able to participate in programs related to science and nature. This museum offers programs that encourage families to engage in hands-on science instruction, inquiry-based learning activities, and cooperative learning opportunities.

The New Britain Museum of American Art in New Britain, Connecticut has Homeschool Days that take place on second Mondays of every month between October and June. According to their site, each month features a different artistic element or medium, historical period, or special exhibit, using the galleries as the classroom. Homeschool students participate in inquiry-based learning and flex visual literacy skills with in-depth discussions of works of art, and sessions end with studio workshops that allow them to delve into the creative process.

Mystic Seaport also has Homeschool programs students and families can engage in during their visit. Their homeschool programs are a series of hands-on learning programs designed specifically for homeschoolers ages 4-13, adjusted for each age; each day of the program concentrated on one theme. Also, Mystic Seaport has Homecoming Community Sailing in which students practice boat handling and become familiar with the basics of water safety and wind.

Connecticut Historical Society has Homeschool Days, or events that give families the opportunity to enjoy engaging, educational workshops, tour our galleries, and connect with other homeschool families. There are short workshops on a variety of topics that are taught throughout the day; two Homeschool Days are scheduled at different parts of the year.

There are many museums and organizations that offer homeschool days and programming. While there are some differences, depending on what the museums’ offer, one of the things they have in common are how they offer interactive events that encourage participation in hands-on activities. These activities not only help homeschool students and families connect with each other but also assist with supplementing their education standards.

In addition to homeschool programs, there are other groups and programs that also encourage connecting with other people and engaging with the materials museums offer. Scout groups, for instance, are also drawn to visiting museums for their educational programs.

Boys and Girls Scout programs encourage them to be active members in their communities and part of these programs inspire them to earn badges that showed they accomplished a task and/or skill to move up a level in the program. Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society and the Long Island Museum, for instance, have programs that are adjusted to meet the these organizations standards not only to allow participants to enjoy their visit but also earn the badges they needed for their programs.

Another example of other programming is family programs that connect them with other families and engage them with the hands-on activities. For instance, while I was at Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society, I worked during a program called Bookworm Adventures with storytelling as well as crafts and other hands-on activities. The particular theme I worked during was Dr. Seuss, and I assisted young children make green eggs of green eggs and ham using marshmallows and green covered chocolates. Meanwhile, the kids pinned a tail on the Cat in the Hat, played with toys, listened to Dr. Seuss’ stories, and made other crafts.

Museums have so many programs and resources to offer. By extending them to groups including homeschool students and scouts, we reach out to audiences that will have another place to interact with other people and take advantage of what we have to offer in educational programming.

What other museums or organizations have similar programs I discussed? Has your organization considered expanding programs like homeschool programs if it does not have a program already? If your organization has similar programming, please share the accomplishments and challenges your museum or organization accomplished.

To learn more about the programs I mentioned in this post, check these out:
http://www.nyhistory.org/education/homeschool
http://www.museumofplay.org/education/homeschool-students
https://www.intrepidmuseum.org/homeschool-days
http://www.cradleofaviation.org/education/homeschool.html
http://www.thechildrensmuseumct.org/programs/homeschool-programs/
http://www.nbmaa.org/classroom/11
https://www.mysticseaport.org/learn/k-12-programs/homeschool/
https://chs.org/education/home-school-day/